Saturday, February 23, 2002
Fasel 'disappointed' integrity in question
WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah -- International hockey's governing body angrily rejected claims by the Russian coach that a referee cost his team a chance to win the gold medal.
Rene Fasel, head of the ice hockey federation, defended the officiating at the Salt Lake City Olympics, saying Saturday it was "of the highest possible level."
After his team lost 3-2 to the United States in the semifinals Friday, coach Slava Fetisov criticized the referee and said a Canada-United States gold-medal game was intended all along.
"The referee's decisions were not the reason why Russia lost," Fasel said.
Fetisov, however, said Canada and the United States got an unfair advantage under an agreement requiring NHL referees in games in which players from the league make up 50 percent of the rosters.
Bill McCreary of Canada was the referee for the Russia-U.S. game and also will work the Canada-U.S. game Sunday. The other NHL referees in Salt Lake City are Stephen Walkom and Dennis LaRue, both of the United States.
Fetisov stood by his remarks Saturday.
"In a competition like that, the refereeing should be neutral. They made the agreement before, and we're kind of hostages of this situation," Fetisov said.
Several Russian players, including Danny Markov, screamed at McCreary as he left the ice after Friday's game, causing Markov to be suspended for Russia's 7-2 bronze-medal victory Saturday over Belarus.
"You can always criticize certain calls and try to prove that the referee made a mistake in a certain situation," Fasel said in a statement. "But when the coach of a team tries to undermine and question the integrity of the Olympic hockey tournament, it makes me very angry and disappointed."
Russian goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, no doubt aware he must go back to playing in games officiated by NHL referees and linesmen, disagreed with Fetisov's comments, saying the officiating was fair.
Khabibulin probably had more problems with a defense that didn't tighten up until the start of the third period, when Russia trailed 3-0 and Khabibulin had faced 38 shots to only 11 for U.S. goalie Mike Richter.
Fetisov, a longtime Soviet star before starting his NHL playing and coaching career, was under considerable pressure to win a gold medal with a lineup loaded with high-scoring forwards. Some Russian players lobbied Russian president Vladimir Putin to choose Fetisov, who is not especially popular with Russian hockey federation officials.
Even before the hockey loss, the Russians had threatened to leave Salt Lake City because of alleged favoritism in other sports, including figure skating, before deciding to stay.
"I have known Slava Fetisov for many years and I consider him a good friend and hope that he made the comments in the heat of the moment and that he really didn't mean what he said," Fasel said.